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WASHINGTON — The Army/Navy rivalry will spill into the Chicago area this weekend, as cars sponsored by the service rivals will compete in the NASCAR Nextel Cup USG Sheetrock 400 on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

This is the first time cars sponsored by the Army and Navy will square off on NASCAR’s biggest stage, according to Navy recruiting officials. Both services have fielded cars in the league’s Busch series races in the past.

David Stremme’s No. 39 Dodge Charger, emblazoned with the Navy’s “Accelerate your life” recruiting slogan, will make its debut on the racing league’s main circuit for Sunday’s event in Joliet, Ill. He’ll also compete in the Cup series in September’s Chevy Rock & Roll 400.

Joe Nemechek has driven the Army’s No. 1 Chevy in all 17 Nextel Cup races this year, and is 18th in the standings.

The sport has become a major recruiting tool for the services. Greg Biffle, who is second in the Cup standings, is sponsored by the Army National Guard. Teams sponsored by the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard have all competed on the Busch circuit this year. The Air Force is a secondary sponsor for Ricky Rudd’s Nextel Cup team.

Jeffrey Nichols, spokesman for Navy Recruiting Command, said officials there are excited not only for Stremme’s step up but also for the exposure the Nextel Cup race will bring their service.

“It’s like going from the minor leagues to the majors,” he said. “It’s that big of a difference.”

Stremme, who has announced he will race in Nextel Cup full-time next year, is seventh in the Busch series standings.

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